Jury exonerates drug dealer in 2017 drive-by killing of Spokane man
A Spokane County jury on Wednesday exonerated an admitted drug dealer of the drive-by shooting death of a Spokane man, who was found hours after he was gunned down in 2017 in a neighborhood near NorthTown Mall.
The jury deliberated parts of Tuesday and Wednesday before finding Darrell T. Tucker II, 33, not guilty of first-degree murder, drive-by shooting and a felon in possession of a firearm.
They also found him not guilty of the lesser alternative of second-degree murder for the killing of 31-year-old Brandon M. Bushy, who was killed on Jan. 24, 2017. His partially frozen body was found hours later on East Crown Avenue.
Tucker shed a couple of tears and shook hands with his attorneys, deputy public defenders Kyle Zeller and Colin Charbonneau, as dozens of friends and family members who attended on behalf of Bushy watched with stunned expressions.
“He didn’t do it,” Tucker’s family friend Adrienne Wallace said after the verdict. “Thank God for the jurors who saw right though it.”
Tucker’s mother, Roxanne Ross, added: “Justice prevailed.”
Even though he was exonerated, transport deputies still handcuffed Tucker and walked him through the group of family and friends who attended the trial on behalf of Bushy. A family spokesperson declined a request for a comment after the verdict.
Zeller, the defense attorney, thanked the jury for the time they took to consider the case. But he said he also thought prosecutors gave a plea deal to the wrong suspect.
Christopher A. Burdick, 33, previously pleaded guilty to rendering criminal assistance under the legal theory that he helped Tucker dispose of the murder weapon and is serving a 51-month sentence. But Burdick’s testimony during Tucker’s trial contradicted many of the statements he previously gave police.
“I couldn’t help thinking that (prosecutors) maybe cut a deal with someone they shouldn’t have,” Zeller said.
The not guilty verdicts come after Tucker testified Tuesday in his own defense. He said that hours before Bushy’s killing, he gave his cellphone to Burdick because the phone had drug contacts that Burdick needed.
Tucker also said he gave Burdick his white Subaru Legacy about a week prior to the shooting.
Deputy Spokane County prosecutors Tom Treppiedi and Kyle Treece both told the jury in opening statements and again on Tuesday that Tucker killed Bushy to settle a nine-year grudge. In 2008, Bushy beat up Tucker after accusing Tucker of raping a teenage family friend, they said.
“The evidence suggests that Darrell Tucker wanted to get away with murder. Of course he did,” Treece said. “The defense’s theory of this case was that this was most likely committed by Christopher Burdick.
“But the evidence doesn’t show that,” Treece continued. “The only person who suggests that it was Christopher Burdick was Darrell Tucker. He was the only one who puts it in a light that someone else did this.”
In charging documents, Burdick told Spokane police detectives that Tucker appeared agitated and indicated that he shot someone and was puking in the minutes after Bushy was killed.
Burdick claimed that Tucker said he hid a .38-caliber pistol behind a dumpster at a nearby apartment building. Burdick later sold the weapon for $40 and half a gram of heroin, according to court testimony.
He also cleaned Tucker’s Subaru with bleach, Zeller told the jury.
“The testimony in this case was all over the place,” Zeller said. “The state is taking pieces of evidence … that fits their case.”
For instance, while Spokane police detective Corey Turman had the FBI analyze Tucker’s cellphone, which showed it was in the area of Bushy’s killing. They did not do the same analysis on Burdick’s phone to see if it was in the same location.
“The state wants to say the motivation (for the killing) was an incident when (Tucker) got a couple of black eyes,” Zeller told the jury. “I would suggest that he didn’t hold a grudge for nine years.”
In the end, the jury apparently agreed.
Asked what plans she has for her son once he was released later Wednesday, Ross said: “He gets whatever he wants. Maybe a nice night’s sleep and a nice bed.”